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Bali Museum (Denpasar)

Think of this as the British Museum or the Smithsonian of Balinese culture. It’s all here, but unlike those world-class institutions, you have to work at sorting it out. The museum could use a dose of curatorial energy; most displays are labelled in English.

Museum staff often play music on a bamboo gamelan to magical effect; visit in the afternoon when it’s uncrowded. Ignore ‘guides’ who offer little except a chance to part with US$5 or US$10.
The museum comprises several buildings and pavilions, including many examples of Balinese architecture.

Main Building
Has a collection of prehistoric pieces downstairs, including stone sarcophagi and stone and bronze implements. Upstairs are examples of traditional artefacts, including items still in everyday use. Look for the intricate wood-and-cane carrying cases for transporting fighting cocks, and tiny carrying cases for fighting crickets.

Northern Pavilion
Built in the style of a Tabanan palace; houses dance costumes and masks, including a sinister rangda (widow-witch), a healthy-looking Barong (mythical lion-dog creature) and a towering Barong Landung (tall Barong) figure.

Central Pavilion
The spacious verandah is inspired by the palace pavilions of the Karangasem kingdom (based in Amlapura), where rajahs held audiences. The exhibits are related to Balinese religion, and include ceremonial objects, calendars and priests’ clothing.

Southern Pavilion
Rich displays of textiles, including endek (a Balinese method of weaving with pre-dyed threads), double ikat, songket (silver- and gold-threaded cloth, hand-woven using a floating weft technique) and prada (the application of gold leaf or gold or silver thread in traditional Balinese clothes).

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